MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The NFL said it's moving forward with plans to play Monday night's Vikings-Bears game at the University of Minnesota's outdoor stadium despite concerns about the site ranging from field conditions to player safety.
TCF Bank Stadium wasn't designed to host a game this late in the year, and potential problems range from a rock-hard field that could be unsafe for players to frozen water pipes. The stadium is also smaller than the Metrodome, possibly leaving some ticket holders out of luck.
Colts owner Robert Irsay said on Twitter that Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis was available if needed. But NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman said that "100 percent of our focus is on getting this game played at the University of Minnesota."
Grubman was in Minneapolis to tour TCF Bank Stadium and to view the snow-damaged Metrodome, where repair work was temporarily halted Thursday because of unsafe conditions after a fourth roof panel collapsed Wednesday night under heavy snow and ice. Three other panels collapsed early Sunday after a blizzard.
"This is Minnesota — you all know how to deal with cold," Grubman said. While he said there are particular concerns about the frozen field, "football is a cold weather game."
The NFL Players Association will continue to monitor the issue and that "the health and safety of our players is paramount," director of communications Carl Francis said.
University officials have said they were looking into treating the field with warming chemicals and also possibly laying a tarp across it with some type of heating element underneath.
The Vikings have said they are committed to playing the last home game of their 50th anniversary season in Minnesota.
Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said Thursday the team was preparing to announce how it would handle the ticketing situation. There are about 64,000 ticket holders for Monday's game but only about 50,000 seats at the Gophers stadium; school officials said it might be possible to erect some temporary bleachers.
There was a call for volunteers to help clear snow at the stadium and the response was so overwhelming Thursday morning that school officials said no more shovelers were needed for the day.
Back at the Metrodome, officials halted repair work until they could resolve what director of facilities and engineering Steve Maki called "an unsafe situation." He said there was concern that still more panels could collapse under snow and ice still sitting atop the deflated roof.
"We will need to clear those panels that are heavily loaded," Maki said. "That's before we can set to work on any repairs."
Maki said engineers were developing a plan for clearing the snow and ice. He said there was no estimate yet of how long the repair work would take or how much it would cost, but that officials were still hoping they could simply repair the damaged panels instead of replacing the entire roof.
On Thursday, the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, which manages the dome, voted to approve an initial $1.5 million for repairs though the final bill is expected to be much larger. Commissioners said insurance would pay for at least a portion of repairs but did not reveal the size of their deductible.